Best Hiking Trails in Southeast Asia

Best Hiking Trails in Southeast Asia
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Discover 5 Best Hiking Trails in Southeast Asia

By Aline Gollin

People often think of Southeast Asia as a region packed with temples, food markets, and golden, sandy beaches; rarely does it get credit for its impressive trekking or hiking trails. But little do travelers know that aside from the usual tourist spots, Southeast Asia is also home to a litany of lush rainforests, beautiful, natural landscapes, and challenging trails that adventure-seekers will be delighted to visit.

As noted by Caitlin Evans in a previous post, beginners may be apprehensive about taking the journey to Southeast Asia’s best mountains for fear of the unknown, but once you learn more about what each one has to offer, you won’t have trouble booking that trip. Lo and behold, here are the best hiking trails in Southeast Asia worth checking out

 

Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar

Go Myanmar
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Those who want peace and serenity will find a 2-day hike from Kalaw to Inle Lake to be a healing experience. Situated on the Western Shan State of Myanmar, Kalaw is an idyllic town known for its refreshing climate and awe-inspiring views, as well as its status as Myanmar’s trekking mecca. While the area offers a variety of options of adventure, its hiking trail is what reels people in, and it’s mostly because of the unparalleled tranquility it brings.

Kalaw is an old-world paradise, devoid of the political turmoils and frustrations found elsewhere in Myanmar. A brief stroll alone will already grant you views of beautiful hills and flower-lined streets and a chance to witness the lives of the local hill tribes. And sure, the trek to Inle Lake is long, it’s not particularly difficult. The only thing that can prove to be a challenge is figuring out the correct trail as there is barely any signage around. It would be best to hire a guide to do the trek with you if it’s your first time.

 

Tana Toraja, Indonesia

Kartika Indonesia
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Indonesia is primarily known for Bali, a province that is beset with beautiful beaches, iconic rice paddies, and tons of resort towns, making it a hotspot for tourists. Of course, there is so much more to the country than these usual tourist destinations. For adventurers seeking an enriching experience, Daydreaming in Paradise details how the Tana Toraja is a hidden gem that encapsulates Indonesia’s robust culture. Home to the ethnic group Torajans, it’s culture-rich, since they are able to continue practicing their culture and live autonomously in their village despite being integrated with modern society and technology. It’s also surrounded by mountains, so it’s an ideal place for treks and hikes as well.

An ideal trip to Tana Toraja spans a few days to give yourself time to immerse yourself in the local culture. It’s even recommended that you stay with a local family, ideally in a traditional house in a remote mountain village to get the full experience. As for hiking, it would be best to go on a multi-hike tour so you can enjoy the Sa’ dan river, scenic views of Pala’ Tokke’, and see the hanging graves with your own two eyes.

 

Sapa Mountains, Vietnam

Sapa Vietnam
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The experience of trekking in Sapa Mountains is part of many a traveler’s Vietnam bucket lists. Tucked away from the rest of Vietnam’s tourist trail, it features some steep mountains and is climatically different compared to the rest of the country. If you’re going to Hanoi, you might as well take the time to make a side trip to appreciate the beautiful scenery it has to offer.

Whether you’re in the area for only a day or for an extended period, there’s a trail option for you. A Trains Planes and Tuktuks article notes that the shortest treks in Sapa last only a day, as you’ll stay firmly on the beaten path. It would be better if you opted for a longer trek to reach trails that only a few visitors reach, but the tradeoff is it’s more expensive and involves more logistical complications. Still, you’ll still get to witness a variety of hill tribe cultures, sweeping views of the entire Hoang Lien Son mountain range, picturesque rice terraces, and so much more.

Heading south from the Sapa town center, you’ll get some nice views of the downtown area before you hit the trails. It’s a short hike through an agricultural area to the first main viewpoint, and one of the best on the trek. You’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the entire Hoang Lien Son mountain range and surrounding rice terraces. Definitely a worthy inclusion within the Best Hiking Trails in Southeast Asia.

 

Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia

Mount Kinabalu Malaysia
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This list wouldn’t be complete without the mention of the ever-famous Mount Kinabalu, which just so happens to be the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago and Malaysia. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s known for its rich and diverse ecology, surrounded by a lush rainforest boasting plant and animal species you can’t see anywhere else, like orangutans and stinking corpse lilies unique to the region.

Adventurers who want to challenge themselves must be prepared to allot two days and ensure that they are of sound fitness to withstand the difficult hike. You can take your pick between two trails to the Low’s Peak summit: the Ranau Trail or Kota Belud Trail. But given how popular this mountain is, you have to book days in advance since only 135 climbing permits are allowed each day.

 

Mount Pulag, Philippines

Mount Pulag Philippines
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This mountain isn’t nicknamed the “playground of the gods” for nothing. Famous for being a spiritual place, Mount Pulag is where North Luzon’s ethnic tribes bury their dead and believe spirits come to rest. Even though it’s Luzon’s highest peak, standing at a height of 2,926 meters above sea level, it’s not as challenging a hike compared to other mountains, but what draws mountaineers of all skill sets is its unique ability to make you feel like you’re amongst fluffy clouds when you reach the top.

Mount Pulag is also popular for sights that will take your breath away. Here you’ll see vast, montane forests, endemic dwarf bamboo plants, golden grasslands, and endangered flora and fauna. The hike will take you two days with two trails of varying levels of difficulty, but even newbie mountaineers will find that it’s a relatively easy and laidback climb.

 

Did you enjoy the Best Hiking Trails in Southeast Asia? Search out so many other options in the category of Travel and Adventure.

Guest Blogger at | Website

Aline Gollin is a traveler at heart. With over 35 countries under her proverbial travel belt, she's explored sights and experiences that she only wants to share. A writer at heart, Aline aims to combine her passion for traveling and writing to relive her best memories and hopefully help others make new ones.

32 thoughts on “Best Hiking Trails in Southeast Asia

  • September 6, 2020 at 7:29 am
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    Wow all trails in your post looks great and I never knew them too. South East Asia has got some wonderful nature places for a beautiful hike. Sapa mountains look splendid with those misty surroundings. Tana Toraja in Indonesia looks interesting with those unique structures. It is very difficult to select which one is best.

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  • September 4, 2020 at 10:15 am
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    Mountains…now you are talking my language for sure. Love the look of the Sapa Mountains in Vietnam. such a beautiful place x

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  • September 3, 2020 at 4:30 pm
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    Great list to add to my hiking list! I would love to take two days to climb Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia! Saving this!

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  • September 3, 2020 at 12:17 am
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    I love hiking. We just went hiking today and managed to hike around 10 miles. It would be great to tackle some of these one day.

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  • September 2, 2020 at 10:49 pm
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    I am so happy to see Mount Kinabalu on the list. I am Malaysian and entertain fantasies of making it up there one day. The views you have here are definitely a motivating factor! Now, let me go build some stamina.

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  • September 2, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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    Mount Kinabalu is definitely on my list to hike, which I will soon. But I was not aware of the other hiking trails, I loved the Indonesian one, looks so pretty and beautiful. I will definitely add Tana Toraja to my list.

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  • September 2, 2020 at 9:33 am
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    Wow….Mount Kinabalu looks so nice from up there. I would definitely begin with it.

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  • September 2, 2020 at 9:20 am
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    I love hiking and it’s been a while since I went with my friends. Life has been quite busy especially this covid situation. Those are wonderful selection of places to hike, which I could go to those areas someday.

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  • September 2, 2020 at 8:13 am
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    This is a great list of hiking trails in Asia. I would love to do one in Indonesia.

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  • September 1, 2020 at 11:59 pm
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    The mountain in Malaysia looks amazing in that photo. why are only 135 hiking permits allowed per day? is it dangerous?

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  • September 1, 2020 at 5:17 pm
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    Absolutely thrilling hikes shared. I am tempted to go on the Pulag in the Philippines for the spiritual significance and the wide variety of flora/fauna including endangered species. The Mount Kinabalu and Sapa Mountains for the hill tribe culture, in particular, have also aroused my interest. Fascinating trekking trails.

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  • September 1, 2020 at 1:44 pm
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    As an avid hiker Mount Kinabalu and Mount Pulag have been on my bucket list for a while now bit I haven’t had the chance to visit the area yet. I really hope I get to go on a hike to at least one of those in 2021. South East Asia is in my priority list for next year when it is hopefully safer to travel.

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  • September 1, 2020 at 1:31 pm
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    While I’ve never been to Southeast Asia (yet, at least!), I would love to see it for myself one of these days! It looks so amazing to hike through.

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  • September 1, 2020 at 11:03 am
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    These trails are incredible! Can only imagine how marvelous it is to be surrounded by a sea of clouds and bask in the morning sun while relishing the wonderful mountain views.

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  • September 1, 2020 at 6:24 am
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    Interesting set of hikes shared here. I have heard of the mount Kinabalu one and how refreshing it can be. Tana Torjan has been on my list especially for its culture and its unusual death ceremony. I think a hike to the village gives me the opportunity to explore not just the culture but the nature around. I would not mind even Lake Inle too.

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  • September 1, 2020 at 2:16 am
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    Fantastic list! I have had the pleasure of hiking in Inle Lake and Sapa but now have to go do this trek in Indonesia and northern Luzon. I have even been to Luzon and wished I’d known about that awesome hike!

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  • September 1, 2020 at 1:59 am
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    This is so beautiful! There is hiking for every level of expertise. I would enjoy much of it!

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  • September 1, 2020 at 12:47 am
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    I would love to go to Southeast Asia one day. I can only imagine how beautiful it is and how many great places there are to hike.

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  • August 31, 2020 at 10:02 pm
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    Those look like some amazing hiking trails! If I ever visit Southeast Asia again I will have to check them out. I actually just went hiking last weekend, but it was on Mt. Graham in Arizona, haha.

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  • August 31, 2020 at 7:27 pm
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    I had never been to South East Asia except Singapore. But all these places look perfect for hiking to me. I may not be able to visit these countries but my extended family member who live in Singapore, I will share this with them as they would love to hike in these places, as they love travelling too!

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  • August 31, 2020 at 6:46 pm
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    These places look mind-blowing especially Indonesia, wow what a beautiful place to hike.

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  • August 31, 2020 at 5:03 pm
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    Wow this looks a beautiful place to hike. I’ve not been to Asia but it’s on my travel bucketlist!

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  • August 31, 2020 at 4:52 pm
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    These would make for amazing adventures. I’ve always wanted to see this part of Asia, and the mountains in the area seem to be some of the most beautiful in the world.

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  • August 31, 2020 at 4:47 pm
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    I would love to be able to hike those areasl one day. I love the mountainous areas of Asia. They are always so incredibly beautiful in the pictures I’ve seen.

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  • August 31, 2020 at 7:24 am
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    Pinning and bookmarking. I hope to do trails in South Asia very soon, I love it and South Asia became big on me lately

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  • August 30, 2020 at 4:56 pm
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    Wow! All the 5 seem gorgeous. But if I have to pick one, it definitely would have to be, Tana Toraja in Indonesia. Staying in one of those local houses with a local family would definitely make the trip super memorable. I’m hoping to visit SE Asia in 2022. Let’s see. Fingers crossed.

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  • August 30, 2020 at 4:18 pm
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    I’ve not been hiking but am keen to start. It’s a great way to see some scenic places. Love your suggestions, the scenery looks to be amazing!

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    • August 31, 2020 at 11:01 am
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      Mount Pulag is really an incredible hike. I can attest to that for it is one of the places tourists visit in my country.

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  • August 30, 2020 at 4:20 am
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    Off the beaten track destinations and locations are my cup of tea. I also love staying out in the wild and love everything that has to do with hiking. South East Asia also happens to be one of my favorite places to travel to. The Sapa Mountains in Vietnam looks like my type of place, I would love to go hiking here

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  • August 30, 2020 at 1:31 am
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    Whoa, as an avid backpacker these hiking trails around South East Asia all seem amazing. But of the best hiking trails you listed, I think I would really want to hike in and around Tana Toraja, Indonesia. The idea of staying with locals sounds awesome but the creepy kid in me really wants to see the hanging graves in Pala Tokke!

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  • August 30, 2020 at 12:58 am
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    Sapa Mountain and Mt. Kinabalu look very interesting with lovely views. Hiking is not my thing but I’d like to try a tame hike soon.

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  • August 29, 2020 at 7:02 am
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    Nice post! Gave me a lot to consider when thinking about traveling back to southeast Asia for some backpacking.

    Reply

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